WA Legislature - Update
(March 10, 2023)

WA Legislature - Update (March 10, 2023) - Takeaways

Three policy committees heard cannabis related bills, hosted a work session on the 20 year study of I-502, and began confirming gubernatorial appointments of WSLCB board members.

Here are some observations of the Washington State Legislature (WA Legislature) for Friday March 10th, the 61st day of the 2023 Regular Session.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • On Thursday March 9th, the Washington State House Regulated Substances and Gaming Committee (WA House RSG) heard testimony on the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) subpoena authority bill and asked questions of rare visitors from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) on the mandated 20 year benefit cost analysis of Initiative 502 (I-502).
    • Prime Sponsor Senator Curtis King visited to introduce SB 5405, request legislation which would grant WSLCB staff subpoena authority on cannabis investigations. As he acknowledged how his bill was passed unanimously in the Senate, he noted how that "sometimes can be good and sometimes can be the kiss of death, so I don't know." Co-Chair Sharon Wylie said she "thought the kiss of death phrase was our phrase," referring to the committee about to hear his bill (video).
      • SB 5367, the WSLCB THC legislation, was also passed unanimously by the Senate after being amended to likely make the bill unenforceable as written. WA House RSG members planned to hear from the many stakeholders around that bill on Monday March 13th.
    • Only 2 people signed in to testify on SB 5405, including WSLCB Director of Legislative Relations Marc Webster who represented the agency perspective and fielded questions (video).
    • The WSIPP research staff presentation on the 20 year evaluation of I-502 provided background and perspective on two reports the agency planned to release in June and September 2023 to meet the long-term monitoring and evaluation mandates established in I-502 (video).
  • Also on Thursday morning, the Washington State Senate Labor and Commerce Committee (WA Senate LC) hosted confirmation hearings on the gubernatorial appointments of all three WSLCB board members.
    • Under oath, the board members engaged in a convivial exchange with the committee members who acknowledged changes the agency had worked through in recent years. There was no indication that any board member's suitability for their appointment was in doubt.
    • Senator Steve Conway asked if issues at the WSLCB were the result of too few board members or too many substances to regulate. Board Chair David Postman took the position that filling vacant staff positions at WSLCB would have a greater impact.
  • On Thursday afternoon, the Washington State Senate Ways and Means Committee (WA Senate WM) heard the first cannabis bill designated “necessary to implement budgets” regarding licensed retail robberies and organized retail crime more broadly.
    • Lux Pot Shop Owner Shea Hynes, speaking on behalf of the Craft Cannabis Coalition, provided context to lawmakers on reasons for inclusion of provisions in SB 5259 specific to the sector which would enable retailers undertaking specified physical security improvements to operate under a 32% excise tax rate rather than 37%.
    • UFCW 3000 Political and Legislative Director Dustin Lambro hinted at external negotiations between labor representatives and large grocery store ownership which led to a proposed substitute bill by prime sponsor Senator Karen Keiser which erased the most contentious section in the legislation while leaving the cannabis provisions intact. As a result, the previously highly contested bill appeared poised for forward movement by the committee.
    • On Wednesday May 29th, the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Task Force (WA ORC Task Force)---which would be codified in statute by SB 5259 as written—planned to host a panel discussion with cannabis retail owners and employees about their experiences around robberies in the cash-heavy business.